Each Saturday this summer, SI Sooners examines 10 players on the Oklahoma roster who can elevate their ceiling in 2021 with a big offseason. Today: offensive lineman Erik Swenson
Erik Swenson seems to always find his way into the starting lineup along the offensive line.
But after featuring in 21 games across the last two seasons for the Oklahoma Sooners, he’ll need to raise his game once again this offseason.
Reliably holding down Jalen Hurts and Spencer Rattler’s blind side the last two years, a shift is in the cards for Swenson.
The arrival of former Tennessee star Wanya Morris at left tackle will bump the redshirt senior over to the other side of the line if he hopes to hold down a starting job yet again.
But Swenson has played a lot of football, and although he sometimes struggled in pass protection early in his career, he has become one of the more consistent pieces on the OU front over the last couple of seasons. But now he needs to elevate his game to a level above consistent.
The expectations at Oklahoma are high, however, and Swenson still has a few steps he can take if he wants to help return the Sooners o-line to the levels they reached in 2018 when they won the Joe Moore Award.
Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said the line didn’t need a complete overhaul this offseason to achieve those goals, but they just had to be intentional in their work every day.
“Mentality. Just mentality and consistency,” Bedenbaugh said of what he needed to see during a spring practice press conference. “I see a totally different mentality from individuals and as a group.
“Just everything you do. … Playing the position at this level and with the standards that we have is tough. It’s hard. It really is. I’m never truly satisfied. Hell, we won the Joe Moore Award in 2018 and I don’t know there was a game where I was satisfied. That’s the nature of this position.”
Head coach Lincoln Riley named the senior amongst a few of the standout performers early in the spring.
“I think a couple of our offensive linemen have really improved,” he said. “Tyrese Robinson, I think has had a really, really good spring. Erik Swenson's had a really good spring.”
SOONERS STEPPING UP
Swenson will have a handful of other talented lineman breathing down his neck.
Anton Harrison was already a player who split time with Swenson a year ago, and may be more comfortable slotting back over to the right side of the line where he played a bit in high school. Stacey Wilkins rejoins the team as well after opting out of 2020, and he was once seen as a guy who could be the right tackle of the future for the Sooners.
With Morris, Robinson, Marquis Mayes and Andrew Raym almost sure to lock down starting spots, the competition at the right side of the line could press on throughout the season.
That kind of competition could bring the best out of Swenson in his final year on campus.
The Downers Grove, IL, product has experienced just about everything over his last two seasons as a major contributor, and now he must hone in and take his game to another level to help elevate the ceiling of the offensive line.
“They’ve got to put so much time outside of just when they’re here, going to meetings, going through drills, going through practice, weightlifting, all those things,” Bedenbaugh said of his offensive linemen. “That’s the bare minimum that they have to do in order to be an elite player.
“I think that’s what I’ve seen change. It’s shown up on the field.”